Where Does Google Store All Those Servers?


In the new issue of mental_floss magazine, Ethan Trex answers The Biggest Questions of 2009. All this week, he'll be answering additional questions of various sizes here on the blog.

Does Google have a vast city of servers out there somewhere?

Not quite. Google does need a mind-boggling number of servers to answer all those search queries, but they're not all socked away in a single location. Instead, they're spread out in data centers around the world, some of which are quite large. Google is notoriously tight-lipped with information about these data centers, so it's hard to say exactly how many of them are scattered around the globe. There might be 35 or so, and there might be many more. Google is similarly cagey with details about exactly how many servers it has, but estimates place the number at several hundred thousand servers at the very least.

In 2005, the search giant started construction on a server center in The Dalles, Oregon. The project called for a complex of three buildings, each as large as a football field, that would be crammed with servers held together with tape and Velcro. The Dalles' location on the Columbia River and proximity to cheap electricity is a serious financial consideration for Google. A server center that large generates a lot of heat requires an energy-sucking cooling system. A 2008 story about the center in Harper's reported that the servers require a half-watt of cooling for every watt they use computing, which necessitates large cooling towers and makes the center a huge energy drain. The same Harper's story pointed out that when the plant is totally completed, it will pull in 103 megawatts of electricity, roughly enough to power 82,000 homes—the equivalent of a city the size of Tacoma.

That facility is large, but it's not the only project Google's been working on. In 2007 the company chose Lenoir, North Carolina, as the site for a new $600 million data center. Not surprisingly, part of the reason Google chose the fairly obscure city was its bargain-priced electricity and reliable power grid. Last year, Google spent a similar amount on a new server facility in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Other sites, like one in Council Bluffs, Iowa, should be operational later this year, while the economy has reportedly delayed construction on a $600 million data center in Pryor, Oklahoma.

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Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

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Slow-Motion Picture: Netflix Is Rolling Out New Playback Speed Controls

You can stay in the Daredevil universe just a bit longer with the slower playback options.
You can stay in the Daredevil universe just a bit longer with the slower playback options.

Netflix is now letting some users adjust the playback speed of its content, meaning you can finish The Irishman in a mere fraction of its 3.5-hour run time (or make it last even longer).

As The Verge reports, viewers will have the option to watch videos at 0.5, 0.75, 1.25, or 1.5 times their normal speed, and the feature will be available for regular streaming content and offline downloads. So far, Netflix is only offering it to Android mobile users, but tests are in the works for iOS devices and the web app, too.

When Netflix shared plans to develop playback speed controls back in October 2019, some leaders in the entertainment industry voiced their opposition. Filmmaker Judd Apatow, for example, took to Twitter to explain that distributors like Netflix shouldn’t be allowed to alter content created by others. The streaming giant didn’t abandon the idea, but it did take the negative feedback into consideration. In a July 31 press release, Netflix explained that it was limiting the number of speeds to just four, and each program will always start playing at the normal speed—that way, viewers will have to consciously choose to speed up or slow down videos on a case-by-case basis.

And while content creators may dislike the thought of having less control over how people experience their work, it’s not a new concept. As Netflix pointed out, DVD players and DVRs have long included playback speed options—the feature has also been available on YouTube for years. More importantly, speed controls give users with vision impairments the opportunity to accelerate the audio—since some can process audio faster than sighted folks—and it gives deaf and hard-of-hearing users the chance to slow down the subtitles. Both the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind have endorsed Netflix’s new feature.

While you’re waiting for Netflix to expand the offering to iOS and web users, here are 25 other hacks to enhance your Netflix viewing experience.

[h/t The Verge]